Century Marks

Century Marks

Ordinary living

In a tribute to outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Stanley Hauerwas said that what Williams taught us is the art of ordinary living. This means giving up notions about grand gestures or heroic actions. It involves learning to live without fear of the complexity of ordinary life. Williams confessed that he longed for a church that was more true to itself. Yet, said Williams, the art of ordinary living means he “must also learn to live in and attend to the reality of the Church as it is, to do the prosaic things that can be and must be done now and to work at my relations now with the people who will not listen to me . . . because what God asks of me is not to live in the future but to live with honesty and attentiveness in the present, i.e., to be at home” (Religion and Ethics, Australian Broadcasting Cor­poration, March 20).

Women in history

When the Washington Post in 1943 tried to come up with a list of the “Ten Outstanding Women of the Modern World,” it could name only eight. Three of them were wives of world leaders at the time: Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Madame Chiang Kai-shek, wife of the Chinese nationalist leader; and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, wife of the King of England George VI. The others were Margaret Mead, American anthropologist; Evie Curie, Marie’s daughter; Dorothy Thompson, journalist and foreign correspondent; Sigred Undset, Norwegian writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928; and Louise Boyd, who had made an expedition to Green­land (History Today, March 2013).

Neural health

Just as our muscles atrophy with inactivity, our ability to connect with other human beings weakens if we spend too much time alone or engage them only via technologies like smart phones, according to Barbara L. Fredrickson, psychologist at the University of North Carolina, and her team of researchers. Social connection also enhances health. “When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other,” Fredrickson wrote. “It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health” (New York Times, March 23).

Iraq, a hard place

Ten years after the beginning of the Iraq War, Americans remain deeply divided over it: 46 percent say the United States mostly achieved its goals in Iraq, while 43 percent say the war was mostly a failure. Americans also continue to disagree over the invasion of Iraq: 44 percent say it was the wrong decision, 41 percent say it was the right thing to do (Pew Research, March 18).

Four-part harmony

Choral music was a major part of the Lutheran Reformation and goes back to Luther himself. He was a competent songwriter and singer, and he saw music as a powerful means of proclaiming the mysteries of God and of moving human hearts. Luther knew that music as an art form has the capacity to bring people together, so he encouraged people to sing together, and in harmony. Luther’s ability to join vernacular words with popular song tunes was instrumental in spreading the Reformation among illiterate as well as literate people. Lutheran schools taught children to sing “psalms and songs” and to sing in four parts (Church History, March).